"It wasn't a potential atonement actuated by the sinner, it was an actual atonement initiated by the savior."

John MacArthur

goats & sheep

Were we goats before we became sheep? Or sheep all along, just straying?

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1st Peter has an interesting statement in chapter 2, verse 25, in that we were, in the past, like sheep, but now, upon our redemption, we have returned to the Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2:25 “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Matthew 25:32-41, discusses this “sheep and goat” language that refers to the saved and unsaved of the final judgment, and in Revelation 20:11-15, this same judgment of unbelieving goats is described at the end of the Millenium period.

Matthew 25:32-41 “And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom'”...the He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;'”
Revelation 20:11-15 confirms this judgment when it states “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sits upon it…I saw the dead…standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened…and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds…and if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
So the question is, those who are saved and ultimately “returned to the Shepherd,” were they converted goats, or sheep all along?
If we are to believe that salvation is upon our free will efforts, then it would seem more logical that everyone is a goat initially and, upon their own efforts, to which God simply sees in advance and ratifies, is ultimately converted to a sheep.


On the other hand, if God does, in fact, elect and choose those who will be gifted to the Son from before the foundation of the world, and ultimately, without fail as Christ states in John 6:37, “I will lose none,” it would seem that they are sheep all along, just straying sheep as this verse accurately specifies.

“Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible” an early bible commentary presents the following analysis of 1 Peter 2:25:

For you were as sheep going astray,… This is proof of their being healed, namely, their conversion; in which an application of the blood of Christ, and pardon, and so healing by it, was made to their souls. The apostle has still in view the prophecy of Isaiah 53:6. God’s elect are sheep before conversion; not that they have the agreeable properties of sheep, as to be meek, harmless, innocent, clean, and profitable, for they are the reverse of all this; nor can some things be said of them before conversion, as may be after, as that they hear Christ’s voice, and follow him; nor are they so called, because unprejudiced against, and predisposed unto the Gospel, for the contrary is true of them; but they are so in electing grace, and were so considered in the Father’s gift of them to Christ, and when made his care and charge, and hence they are called the sheep of his hand; and when Christ laid down his life, and rose again, which he did for the sheep, and as the great Shepherd of them; and when called by grace, for their being sheep, and Christ’s own sheep by the Father’s gift, and his own purpose, is the reason why he looks them up, calls them by name, and returns them: but then they are not yet of his fold; they are lost sheep, lost in Adam, and by his fall, and by their own actual transgressions; they are as sheep going astray from the shepherd, and from the flock, going out of the right way, and in their own ways; and are, like sheep, stupid and insensible of their danger; and as they never return of themselves, until they are sought for, and brought back: hence it follows,  but are now returned; not returned themselves, but were returned by powerful and efficacious grace: saints are passive, and not active in the first conversion; they are turned, not by the power of their own free will, but by the power of God’s free grace; they are returned under the illuminations and quickenings of the blessed Spirit, and through the efficacious drawings of the Father’s love, unto Christ.

One of the most interesting facets of the Bible is that when understood correctly, everything is harmonious. So it is with the doctrine of election, when understood and accepted, that the Bible simply fits together much more nicely.

P.S. It is important to understand that the scope of John 6:37, which states “All that the Father gives me, I will lose none,” is comprehensive. By that I mean, not only will no one who is saved ever lose their salvation (known as the perseverance of the saints) but additionally, no one who is elect will ever lose out on their redemption. All the elect will be saved. Thus this is, in fact, a comprehensive assurance of both justification and glorification to all who are chosen.